“My mother is buried in South Ossetia,” said Marina, who fled her home the day the war began as pro-Russian militias closed in on her Georgian village in 2008. “I can’t bear the thought of never seeing her grave again.” Marina, who would give only her first name, now lives with her family in a two-room prefab cottage donated by the government. Khurvaleti, the windswept settlement where she resides, holds thousands of internally displaced. I spent several days there talking with and sketching its residents. Our conversations were sometimes interrupted by the sounds of explosions from Russian military drills across the boundary fence, which is just beyond the camp. Minutes away in the other direction is the main east–west highway to Tbilisi. Russian President Vladimir Putin can cut Georgia in half in an afternoon if he wants to.
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ANDREW NORTH is a freelance journalist based in Georgia. He covered the 2008 Russia-Georgia war for the BBC.